Sen. Jeb Bradley: When businesses open again, safety must be priority

For the Monitor
Published: 4/21/2020 3:36:39 PM

One of the key questions people are asking every hour of every day is when will New Hampshire businesses be open again.

Given the profound harmful impact the coronavirus is having on New Hampshire’s small businesses – which are the backbone of our economy – getting them operating again safely and as soon as possible is critical.

All of us that have depended on businesses like grocery stores, hardware stores, banks, pharmacies, gas stations and others are watching in real time as businesses adapt to this new reality of staying open while serving their customers – safely.

What have these business and all of us learned? Businesses have adopted spacing between customers with 6-foot lines at checkout, waiting outside some stores to enter to keep the number of people inside to a minimum, Plexiglas shields to protect cashiers, and employees and customers wearing facial masks and gloves.

Supermarkets are adopting specific times for seniors to shop. Supermarkets are also asking people to only purchase limited amounts of paper products, cleaning supplies and food supplies like eggs to ensure that everyone can obtain what they require. Stores are sanitizing shopping carts and other surfaces people touch. We are only utilizing single-use bags. Some markets are encouraging customers to send their shopping list electronically and then picking up their order.

Many other businesses are doing curbside pickup. Stores take an order at the door, fill the needed supplies and deliver them to the customer at the door. Gas stations are supplying disposable gloves for people to pump fuel.

While people may not be buying new vehicles, they are getting current vehicles serviced. Most repair facilities are willing to pick up the vehicle, service it, clean it thoroughly and deliver it back to its owner. Person to person contact is minimized but the vehicle gets repaired.

Veterinarians are still treating our pets. Staff come outside the office to get the dog or cat. When the treatment is over, the animal is delivered to the owner outside.

Many businesses have contacted me – some that have remained open as essential services and some still closed. All of these business owners have told me they are working with the Centers for Disease Control guidelines and implementing distancing requirements so that they can safely be open or reopen and serve the public.

We are seeing this every day how businesses are adapting and employing creative solutions to protect the health of their employees and customers. This creative thinking and reliance on CDC guidelines will be critical to opening our state back up again.

What are the CDC goal posts that will be necessary to start to open closed businesses? First, New Hampshire will have to show a downward trajectory of positive coronavirus infections as a percentage of the tests taken. Secondly, we will have to have adequate capacity in place to test for the virus, in particular for first responders and frontline health care workers. Further, health care facilities will have to have resources to treat patients and there must be adequate protective gear.

Our state is making progress with all of these factors. This progress will hopefully enable us to move to a phased reopening of our economy sooner rather than later.

Why is reopening so important? Twenty-two million Americans are now out of work. In New Hampshire 100,000 of our friends and neighbors are out of work and the number continues to grow. The statistics are alarming in aggregate. But for each individual hard-working person or small business owner the threat is dire – the ability to provide for their families and survivability of their business.

New Hampshire needs to be open as quickly as possible, but also as safely as possible. At risk people with medical conditions should continue to minimize their exposure.

We should decrease the risk of visitors traveling from virus hot spots coming to campgrounds in our state while the virus can be spread and supply chain shortages occur in supermarkets. Large venues will not be open quickly. Smaller gatherings should continue during a phased opening of our state as we are not going to flip a switch from one day to the next.

What the essential service businesses have shown us during this period is that we can practice necessary social distancing and minimize the risk of virus spread – while still providing services we require. These practices can be applied to other businesses that are closed so that they can safely open in a responsible phased manner consistent with the CDC guidelines.

It is critical that we are both as safe as possible while being open for business. We can do both!

On another note, with Gov. Chris Sununu continuing the closure of schools it is critical that we salute the hard work and creativity of teachers and administrators to remotely teach kids. Parents also have worked very hard to ensure their kids are participating in remote learning. At a time of crisis these heart-warming efforts are inspiring.

(Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro represents District 3 in the N.H. Senate.)

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